‘We want the youth to know they have a voice’; Hurricane City initiates new Youth City Council

Youth City Council members stand with Hurricane City council members at the service project where members helped distribute school desks for kids, Hurricane, Utah, circa April | Photo courtesy of Kenna Clark, St. George News

HURRICANE — Hurricane City has organized a new Youth City Council of nine members in order to help educate the youth about city government, encourage advocacy and foster leadership.

The council has two adult leaders, Julie Ballard and Lana Johnson, and nine council members who have signed up. Every four months, there will be a rotation of positions so that members have the opportunity to learn at least three positions until the end of the council in April 2021.

Councilmember Nanette Billings, who initiated the Youth City Council, told St. George News the focus of the group is to SAVE the youth of today to be leaders for tomorrow.

SAVE is an acronym in which each letter represents a primary focus for the council.

The S is for service. The youth city council will work on some service project every two months, Billings said. The first one has been in helping distribute desks to children being home-schooled.

Julie Ballard, leader of the Hurricane City Youth Council, Hurricane, Utah, date unspecified | Photo courtesy of Nanette Billings, St. George News

Some of the service projects they plan to get involved with are the 4th of July parade and park activities, Peach Days, Shop with a Cop, and the city’s Christmas tree festival.

The A is for action and being an advocate for youth.

“We want the youth to know they have a voice, that they can actually stand up, come to the city council meetings, present to adults and to the community leaders and have their voice heard,” Billings said. “And have the community recognize that the youth have valid concerns for other youth.”

The V is for viewing and visiting all departments within the city in order to gain an understanding of how the city government functions.

And finally, the E is for education with the primary focus of gaining an understanding of the U.S. Constitution.

Cailin Campbell, 17, currently acting as the city secretary for the Youth City Council, told St. George News that she got involved with the council as a way to get her voice out there and also show others the power of their voice.

Cailin Campbell, a Youth City Council member, Hurricane, Utah, date unspecified | Photo courtesy of Nanette Billings, St. George News

A primary concern in today’s youth she hopes to work on during her time with the council has to do with mental health, such as depression and anxiety, she said. In order to address this, she said it’s important for those struggling to know they are not alone.

“Everybody, one time or another in their life, is going to go through trials and problems,” she said, “but things do get better, even if you don’t think they will.”

She also added that right now, in the midst of school closures, people are understanding more the importance of technology and its value to society, especially in terms of social connection.

“Being out of school, it’s been isolating, like there’s no one to talk to,” she said. “But we have this amazing technology pretty much at our fingertips for everybody, and we’re able to just make contact with people. Without technology, we wouldn’t have been able to.”

For Campbell, becoming a member of the council was stepping outside of her comfort zone, something she hopes will inspire others to get involved.

Kenna Clark, a Youth City Council member, Hurricane, Utah, date unspecified | Photo courtesy of Nanette Billings, St. George News

“Personally, I’m not usually one to go and apply for something like this. So I think the people who know me will probably think, ‘Oh, she can do this?’ I think I can do this, too.” she said. “So I think it means a lot for people like this because they don’t think they can make a difference anywhere, but they actually can.”

Kenna Clark, 16, who is serving as the mayor, told St. George News that she has really been enjoying her role as a leader.

“It’s definitely a different experience than I ever would’ve thought,” she said. “It’s very difficult and challenging with the agenda … because I have to make sure everything runs smoothly. Overall, it’s been a really fun experience, especially in being able to connect with people in the community I never thought I’d be able to connect to.”

The problems Clark has seen with the youth at school that she hopes to address are similar to Campbell’s concerns and seem to have a chain reaction, she said.

“It starts with drugs and then it grows into depression and anxiety and it keeps going on forever and ever,” Clark said. “I hope that we can all just find a way to help these youth and to make sure we’re stopping the issue at the root.”

Lana Johnson, adult volunteer leader for the Hurricane City Youth City Council, Hurricane, Utah, date unspecified | Photo courtesy of Nanette Billings, St. George News

In many cases, Clark said she thinks kids get involved with drugs because they are looking for an outlet from all the things in the world and mostly just school in general.

“They just assume that’s going to help them, but it just puts them in a worse spot than they’re already at,” she said. “They’ll start getting addicted and then realize this has ruined their whole life. It’s a scary thing.”

Spreading awareness about these issues is one of the ways she hopes to tackle this issue, she said. And she hopes more kids are inspired to get involved.

“Our responsibility as a council is to just stand up for youth here in the city and make sure we all have a say in what we’re trying to accomplish,” she said. “Not everyone can see our side of things, and I feel like we’re able to see that more closely than most adults are. And so it’s a great opportunity to figure out the problems of the youth and hit it head-on and make sure they know that they’re loved and they’re cared for.”

The youth city council meetings are scheduled for every Monday at 5 p.m. and can be accessed virtually. Billings said they are still accepting other youth to participate as citizens in the meetings. These citizens will also have the opportunity to take part in all activities and services.

Youth City Council members:

  • Taylor Dalton
  • Morgan Turner
  • Kaylee Melessa
  • Kaylee Long
  • Stockton Neibert
  • Cooper Anderson (city manager)
  • Alyssa LeBaron (recorder)
  • Cailin Campbell (city secretary)
  • Kenna Clark (mayor)

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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